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Stop Marking So Much!

Roberta Tevlin, Editor OAPT Newsletter, teacher Danforth CTI

Marking is important, but it is boring and it takes you away from the more important aspects of teaching and life. Marking numerical problems is not too bad, but questions that require answers in sentences can be really time-consuming. A number of teachers have complained to me about how much time they spend marking and have asked me to pass on some of my techniques for reducing this. Read More...

Learning the Current Electricity Ropes

Chris Meyer, President OAPT

Electricity is almost always invisible; we never get to see electrons doing their thing. Only occasionally do we observe some by-product of electrical shenanigans like a spark, a glow, or a warm battery. This makes learning about electricity tough. As a result, many students (and even some teachers!) don’t develop a clear mental model representing how electrons move in a circuit. There are two important ideas are often missing from our mental models. Read More...

College Physics: Electronic Literacy and Numeracy

Roberta Tevlin, Teacher Danforth CTI, OAPT Newsletter Editor

I am teaching the college physics course for the first time. My thirty years of teaching 12U physics and grade 9 science has not been a great guide for this. After two months, I am still struggling. Many of my lessons didn’t go the way I expected and some of them didn’t work at all!

Fortunately, two assignments did work well and in this article I will describe what I did and why I think they worked. Read More...

Visualizing Static Electricity

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers

Static electricity might very well be the most important topic taught in high school science. Exploring static electricity teaches us how charged particles behave, which becomes the basis for understanding the structure of the atom, chemical reactions, the behaviour of complex biological molecules, cells, and even human thought. Static electricity is challenging to understand because it is invisible; we can’t see the particles doing their thing. As a result, we need to help students construct concrete, visual models of charged particles and provide students with visual ways of verifying their understanding of static electricity. Read More...

2019 OAPT Conference

Plans are well underway for this year’s OAPT conference being held May 2-4 at the Institute of Quantum Computing in Waterloo.

Our theme is Entangling Learning. We will be highlighting some of the exciting things happening where physics connects with student learning, as well as how we can entangle different parts of the curriculum.  Physics is more than a body of knowledge — it is a very successful way of approaching a wide variety of problems.

Registration for the conference will open in February. In the meantime, mark your calendars!

Proposals for Workshop Sessions
We are accepting proposals for sessions at a variety of time lengths.  The deadline for proposals is January 25th, 2019. If you have something you would like to present please fill out this Google Form. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdhiR9elS8i2bmuu0MGiGKIMpQFFAzgtAmuRidztjoqEJjPxA/viewform

Financial Support for Attendees
The OAPT is aware that it can be very difficult for high school teachers to attend the OAPT conference because there is so little financial support for professional development made available by their schools, boards and unions. We encourage teachers to tap into these sources for wherever support is available. In addition we make things easier on teachers’ wallets in four ways. These supports are only possible through the generosity of several organizations.
  • Conference fees are kept very low because the host university provides the facilities and many of the speakers at no cost. Our thanks this year go to The Institute of Quantum Computing.
  • Residence fees are only $29.99 a night because the real costs are subsidized by the University of Toronto’s Electrical and Computer Engineering. We thank U of T ECE for their many years of support for this and for supporting the OAPT Grade 11 Physics Contest.
  • The OAPT believes that encouraging first-time attendance will create a new generation of teachers who will want to attend again and again.  To encourage first time attendees, we will cover their supply teacher costs for Friday May 11th. Please encourage the young teachers at your school to take advantage of this opportunity. You can apply for this subsidy by filling out this Google form https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfSxnP2v3WRYhScNn0tTvVZmjsOUz-kTmMhKYg_qlDWxv5CdQ/viewform?usp=sf_link
  • The OAPT recognizes that teachers in northern Ontario lack many of the PD opportunities that are available in the south. They also have much higher travel costs. For the eighth year running, the OAPT will be covering the travel costs for teachers north of Algonquin Park. We would like to thank the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics for helping us to provide this support. You can apply for this subsidy by filling out this Google form. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScjlQ8mPI_aKT7pRM56b4W8oQHsQyfE-OvjNa11HfO7EfldVA/viewform?usp=sf_link

Mirrors and Ray Diagrams App for Grade 10 Science

Matthew Craig, Teacher at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto

I’ve been programming a suite of PC/MAC/Android simulations designed for teaching the Ontario curriculum for science and physics. Previously, I wrote about a Metal Leaf Electroscope Simulator.

In this article I am introducing a simulation I use to teach mirrors and ray diagrams in grade 10 optics. PhET has a simulation for refraction and one for lenses but there is nothing for mirrors, so I developed this simulation for grade 10 optics. Read More...

The BIG 5 Challenge: A Rich Activity for the Motion Unit

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers

Here is a rich problem solving activity that I use when introducing the five equations of constant acceleration with my grade 11s.

Goal: I want to teach my students how to apply their new understanding to real physical situations and avoid plug’n’chug type questions. Read More...

New Physics Videos from the University of Guelph

Joanne O’Meara, Professor and Associate Chair University of Guelph

As part of a recent endeavour of at the University of Guelph to flip the classroom, we have created a library of YouTube videos to accompany one of our first year courses: Physics for the Biological Sciences. Read More...

Physics Experiment Videos and the Rotating Fish Tank

Eric Haller, Occasional Secondary School Teacher, Peel District School Board

In science, it’s always nice to be able to do a hands-on experiment. While there are many experiments you can do in class, there are some you can’t. Sometimes a particular experiment may require expensive equipment that you don’t have, may take too long to set up, may yield data that is too imprecise to analyze properly, or an experiment may be too dangerous for a classroom setting. At the latest annual OAPT conference Andrew Moffat showed us several websites with video libraries filled with experiments that I wouldn’t be able to recreate myself (skip to the end of this article for those links). To give you a taste of what kinds of videos are available, and how you might build a lesson around one of them for your students, I’d like to analyze one of my favourite videos from the collections. Read More...

Opportunities for educators to learn quantum: Schrodinger’s Class

Quantum mechanics is a complex subject, but its basic concepts are being taught in Canadian physics curricula. To encourage and inspire students to pursue careers in STEM, educators should have access to the tools and resources that reflect the current content and understanding of the field. Who better to help equip them than the experts pioneering the field itself?

Schrodinger’s Class is a 3-day workshop that takes place at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), a scientific research institute at the University of Waterloo. Led by John Donohue, IQC alumnus and now Scientific Outreach Manager, this workshop gives science educators like you the opportunity to attend lectures and engage in hands-on activities focused on the integration of quantum technologies into the current teaching curriculum. Activities include the introduction of quantum superposition using inexpensive light polarizers, as well as using simple physics and math to convey the "spookiness" of quantum entanglement. There will be discussions about quantum information science and technology to give you a deeper understanding of quantum mechanics to bring back to the classroom. You will not only discover how harnessing remarkable quantum phenomena is transforming the way we compute and communicate today, but also how it will change the technological landscape of tomorrow, with your students at the helm.

Here’s what past participants had to say about the event:
  • “It was an amazing opportunity to gain a better conceptual understanding of quantum physics: great to fill in some gaps as well as uncover some misconceptions I didn’t know I had.”
  • “I enjoyed being treated like a professional. The entire workshop is engaging and interesting. I felt motivated to go back and teach all physics content, not just quantum, after participating in this workshop. In addition, I enjoyed meeting other physics teachers.”
  • The activities were “student-friendly” and able to make “quantum tangible” in a time where “there are very few resources out there for quantum mechanics in its modern interpretation.” The collaborative, challenging, and fast-paced environment bolstered their enthusiasm for physics, inspiring them to pass along that passion for to their students.
  • “I arrived home from the workshop at 11:00 p.m. Sunday night, and at 11:00 Monday morning, I started teaching my Physics 2 students a series of lessons about Quantum Cryptography!!”
There is no cost to the workshop. While there is a $100 deposit require to secure your spot, this deposit is refunded at the end of the event. For those who live greater than 50 km away, accommodations are booked at no cost to you. Applications are open until October 22.

Schrodinger’s Class
November 30-December 2, 2018
IQC, University of Waterloo, Waterloo ON
Free, with $100 deposit

Accommodating Multiple Special Education Needs in One Classroom

Roberta Tevlin, teacher Danforth CTI, Editor OAPT Newsletter

Recently, I and all of the other teachers at my school spent an afternoon learning how to access the IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) of our students with special education needs. We were supposed to make notes from these extremely wordy documents and figure out how to implement the required accommodations in our classrooms. Half of our students have IEP’s and all around me, I heard teachers getting frustrated. How are you supposed to address all of these individual needs at the same time?

It isn’t as impossible as it may seem. Much can be accomplished by using the principal of Universal Design and by implementing teaching techniques from Physics Education Research. Read More...

Explore Extrasolar Worlds: A hands-on activity for high school science and physics courses

Vjera Miović

Have you ever wondered about life on other worlds? How about what planets outside our Solar System might look like? Do they have an atmosphere? Are they in the habitable zone for their star? Your students most certainly have — especially if they watched any space movies, comics or video games. In that case, leave the motions of our Sun, Moon and Earth behind and let your students go deeper and farther into space in search for exoplanets!

All you need for each station is a light bulb, a box and some play dough balls. Don’t let the cheap materials fool you – there are deep inquiry-based learning opportunities in this activity to satisfy the most curious of minds. Let’s begin. Read More...

Spiraling 3U: Why I’m reshuffling the deck

Ashley McCarl Palmer, Teacher Waterloo DSB

There is a growing momentum in the elementary panel to spiral subjects, especially math, which is now flowing into secondary schools. My board has been pushing the spiral math method in the grade 9 and 10 applied courses for the past few years and last year in September our principal asked us to think about our courses to see if spiraling could be beneficial there as well. If I’m completely honest, I scoffed at the idea at first. Read More...

The Future of Physics Teaching

Chris Meyer, President, OAPT

This will be my 21st year of teaching. I still enjoy my work, but I definitely feel older, crustier, and ... somewhat stumped. Over this time, I have learned a lot about teaching and made many changes. But as I refine my practice, I feel like I am not going in the direction I ought. As I learn more, I discover compelling teaching ideas that conflict with my current teaching practice and strain against the structure of our educational system. I will share with you what perplexes me, in the hope that you will find solutions that I cannot. These are my thoughts about the future of physics teaching. Read More...

PI Workshop at SNOLAB Oct 12th -13th!

In partnership with the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, SNOLAB is hosting a special 2-day workshop for high school physics teachers on October 12th and 13th, 2018 in Sudbury.

This free workshop will take place at SNOLAB and consist of hands on teaching resources from Permitter Institute to bring cutting edge research into the high school science classroom with sessions on dark matter, dark energy, exoplanets and more. These workshops will be delivered in English but all resources will be available in both English and French. The second day, Saturday Oct. 13th (which is optional) will include a tour of the underground facility and a lunch and learn with a SNOLAB researcher.

Ontario teachers coverage for the Friday of this workshop is available upon request. Please see the attached poster for more details and feel free to distribute to teachers in your network who may be interested.

Interested teachers can email me at Blaire.flynn@snolab.ca or fill out the registration form here: http://www.pitp.ca/SNOPI-workshop

Let me know if you have any questions at all or would like to discuss this opportunity further!

Many thanks,


Blaire Flynn | Education Outreach Coordinator | SNOLAB

705 692 7000 x 2806

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“Why Am I Not Getting This?” Feelings of Competence Among Young Women in Physics and Strategies to Strengthen These

Lindsay Mainhood, M.Ed., OCT, current research assistant at Queen’s University

As a physics teacher, have you heard your students question their competence in physics? Have you heard them doubt their competence, or even express defeat in understanding physics? For reasons that may be obvious, such feelings among students can be adverse to their success and continuation in physics. Such feelings among young women can be understood as particularly detrimental on the journey toward gender equity in physics.

To explain why feeling competent is an important aspect of students’ success in physics, a research-based rationale is helpful to consider. Physics identity, a concept suggested by Hazari, Brewe, Goertzen, & Hodapp, can be described as the extent to which someone feels like they are a “physics person” (2017, p. 96). A strong physics identity is dependent on the development of four feelings (interest, competence, performance, and recognition). The importance of students’ development of physics identity is substantiated by the fact that physics identity has been shown to strongly predict students’ academic success in physics (Bliuc, Ellis, Goodyear, & Hendres, 2011) and career choice (Hazari, Sonnert, Sadler, & Shanahan, 2010). Feelings of competence, one component of physics identity, are the focus of the article. Competence can be defined as the feeling of being capable of understanding physics concepts.

In this article I share my research study’s findings related to young women’s feelings of competence during their high school physics education. This article’s aim, then, is to connect teachers to their students’ feelings of competence, or lack thereof, and to underscore the importance of helping students to feel competent for success and continuation in physics. Finally, I offer practical recommendations for teachers to help support feelings of competence in students in the physics classroom. Read More...

Perimeter Institute and 4C Physics

Do you teach 4C physics? The Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics is planning to create a resource tied to 4C physics and wants to know what you think would be most useful. You can help out by filling in this brief (3 minute) survey. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZM9YYRT If you don’t teach 4C physics, but know someone who does, please pass this on to them.

The End of Conventional Current

Chris Meyer
President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers

Time to Let Go
It’s time! Conventional current, the mysterious flow of positively charged particles in current electricity, has outlived its usefulness. This model hinders the development of clear physical understanding and places an additional, unnecessary conceptual burden on all our students. We ought to let the few students who pursue the electrical trades, electrical engineering, or physics deal with this awkward relic. Use electron current in high school. It’s time to let go of the ghosts from our disciplinary past and focus on improving our students’ learning. Read More...

OAPT-OTF Physics Camp is back!!

Exploring Inquiry in Science and Physics
Kingston, July 24-26, 2018

Join James, Roberta and (some surprise presenters!!) for twelve new workshops for physics in grades 9-12. These sessions will include topics such as smart phone apps, gravity assists, modelling particle models and concepts schmoncepts. It will also feature three brand-new resources from the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics on Energy, Waves and Climate Change!

All of the workshops will be fully hands-on and engaging. You will have lots of time to explore the materials and discuss the concepts with other keen teachers like yourself. We will be following a schedule that is quite different from the other OTF camps, but which has worked really well in the past. The first two days will be extra-long so that the last day (Thursday) is just a half-day which will make getting home easier. Because we start bright and early on the Tuesday, we strongly recommend that you ask for the optional accommodation on Monday night.

This camp is fully funded by the OTF and therefore registration is only open to teachers who are part of the OTF. We are sorry that we can’t include private school teachers or teacher candidates.

Registration opens June 1.

Last year, we had more registrants than space — so make sure you sign up early! If you have any questions, feel free to email roberta@tevlin.ca. Please email Roberta after you register, so that she can arrange car pooling and other last minute things.

Check out the agenda for more detailed information.

Hands-On Fields

Roberta Tevlin
Teacher at Danforth CTI, Manager OAPT Newsletter

The concept of fields is fundamental to our modern understanding of physics and the Ontario curriculum dedicates one of the five units in 12U physics to Gravitational, Electric and Magnetic Fields. I have struggled for many years to find ways to make this important but abstract concept more tangible to my students. Here is what I have come up with so far. Read More...

LEDs: An alternative to traditional bulbs

David Gervais
STAO Safety Chair

The traditional incandescent bulbs used for teaching series and parallel circuits are rated for 3 V or 6 V. The problem is that many power supplies can generate 12 to 15 V. As a result, it is common to have many blown bulbs. With several sections teaching this unit, bulbs can quickly become in short supply. Each bulb replacement can cost $1.00 each, and often are included in the general department order at the end of each semester. For those teachers using breadboards, traditional bulbs are also not easily adapted to fit into the small holes. LEDs are a great alternative for many reasons. Read More...

Newton’s Cradle of Confusion

Timothy Sibbald, OCT, associate professor, Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, North Bay.

Tiberiu Veres, teacher candidate, Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, North Bay.

Michael Anderson, teacher candidate, Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, North Bay.

Newton’s cradle is a classic physics ‘toy’ that is interpreted as showing the conservation of energy and momentum. In some respects it is too good at what it does. Students see predictability in the action that takes place and may not be driven to consider it more deeply. In essence, the instructional problem is that the cognitive dissonance that it causes can be explained fairly readily as conservation of momentum. However, like so many elements of physics, if it is tackled in the right way the richness of Newton’s cradle can be revealed.

DIY Simulations

Tasha Richardson, OCT

Like many physics teachers in Ontario, I have used pre-boxed learning simulations: PhET, by University of Colorado; Gizmos, by ExploreLearning, and so on. But after having a conversation with a former student, I now have students build their own simulations. I like to ask former students what I could have done better to help prepare them for their post-secondary program. The student in question shared that his engineering program required students to run a simulation of any experiment they were intending to perform prior to doing so in the physical lab.

Note: This article is a summary of a session at the upcoming 2018 OAPT Conference. (Session B: Friday, May 11, 11:15 am) Read More...

Making First Year Physics Fun

Ben Davis-Purcell, Instructional Assistant, McMaster University

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at McMaster University recently redesigned our first-year physics programme. The most important aspect of this project was the design and implementation of a new introductory physics course (Physics 1A03). Sara Cormier wrote about this course in detail last year, so I will just give a brief overview. Physics 1A03 sees an enrolment of about 1800 students each year, primarily by students who need one physics course to meet a degree requirement. Many students who take the course have never taken grade 12 physics or calculus, so we do not assume prior knowledge or use any calculus. Instead, the goal of the course is to give students an appreciation for physics and show its importance, focusing on concepts that relate to real-life problems. Most importantly, we want to show students that physics is not just valuable, but fun to understand and learn. In this article I will focus on some of my favourite ways in which we make Physics 1A03 fun. I will refer you to Sara’s article for a more detailed overview of the course. Read More...

Physics in the news as a vector for classroom engagement

Kelly Meissner, BSc, MSc, BEd
Bluevale Collegiate Institute, WRDSB

Now more than ever it has become important for our students to develop a deep understanding of the science in the news that constantly surrounds them. These students will live with the effects of climate change and hopefully make important evidenced-based decisions rather than those based on alternative facts. It is imperative that when our students leave us, they have a strong moral, ethical and scientific compass that supports the betterment of humanity and our precious Earth. Read More...

Astronomy Workshop

The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto, and Discover the Universe — a national, bilingual program to support the teaching of astronomy in schools — invite you to attend and participate in a FREE one-day astronomy workshop for schoolteachers. The focus will be on the grade nine level, but all interested teachers and education professionals are welcome.

When/Where: Saturday April 28, 2018 from 9 am to 4 pm on the University of Toronto St. George Campus, 50 St. George Street.
Note: the workshop venue is not wheelchair accessible.

The workshop will include curriculum-connected science mini-talks and discussions, a planetarium show, classroom activities and resources, free materials to take back to your classroom, lots of time for questions and discussion, and a chance to talk with astronomers and education specialists.

For more information, and to register, free of charge, go to:

Discover the Universe (discovertheuniverse.ca) is sponsored by the Dunlap Institute, and the Canadian Astronomical Society.

Biophysics Contest

The Physics Department of York University is hosting a Biophysics contest.

This is a competition open to all Ontario high school students. The contest aims to investigate a rapidly growing frontier of science, and to promote skills in the communication of science. The goal is to demonstrate the interdisciplinary threads that connect together the physical and life sciences, which can seem and feel like disparate areas of science in high school and university! Students must create a poster to visually tell a "story" that relates a fundamental physical concept to a basic biological (or biomedical) topic.

This is a great opportunity to help your students get excited about what is happening where biology meets physics. The first prize is $1250!! The deadline for submission is midnight May1, 2018.

For more information, go to

The 2018 OAPT Conference is open for Registration!!!

This year’s conference will take place May 10-12 at Western University. The theme this year is Physics at the Boundaries, where we will explore how physics interacts with other disciplines.

There will be over 30 workshops to choose from to support physics education from grade 9 to 12 and post-secondary. It is a great opportunity to share ideas and concerns, make friends and professional connections.

The costs of the conference are very low — especially if you register before the early bird deadline of April 12 — and there are special rates for teachers who are new, retired or from the elementary panel. The accommodation is subsidized ($30 per night including a hot breakfast!) and there are a limited number of subsidies for travel and first-time attendees.

For more information about the conference and to register go to https://oaopt.wildapricot.org/page-18092

Improv for Scientists

Joanne M. O'Meara
Professor, Associate Chair (Undergraduate)
Department of Physics, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON

In order to give our physics majors more opportunities to develop their communication skills during their undergraduate degree, we now require them to take a one-semester Science Communications course that focuses on sharing their passion for physics with diverse audiences. This course is structured very differently from the rest of their core courses, with weekly discussion sessions in which students are expected to share their thoughts and opinions on assigned readings or viewings. Students also do at least three presentations during the term and participate in regular in-class group activities such as brainstorming a script/storyboard for a video on the Physics of the Winter Olympics. Read More...

Young Women in Engineering Symposium May 5 2018


Dear STEM Educators,

Greetings from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto. I hope this message finds you enjoying a healthy and productive school year. We are planning a campus event this spring designed to increase the number of young women entering STEM professions in Ontario, and we need your help! We are reaching out to Physics educators to identify top female Grade 11 Physics students to take part in our fourth annual Young Women in Engineering Symposium.

This free Symposium will take place on Saturday, May 5, 2018 and will feature:
• A keynote address from a leading female scientist or engineer
• Hands-on workshops
• An Engineering myth-busters panel
• A luncheon with current engineering female students

Kindly forward this message to your school’s Science Head, asking them to please share the application link below with up to three of their top Grade 11 female students (note that students must be entering their Grade 12 year in September 2018 and be planning on taking Grade 12 Physics):


Students interested in participating in the Symposium are asked to complete their application by Monday, March 26, 2018. Due to limited space, we may not be able to accommodate all applicants, and so we will confirm their participation through e-mail by mid-April.

Thank you very much for your help with this initiative. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or Jessica Chow (jessica.chow@ecf.utoronto.ca) if you have any questions.

All the best,

Micah Stickel

Vice-Dean, First Year
Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering | University of Toronto
Office of the Dean, 44 St. George Street, BA1009 | Toronto | Ontario | M5S 2E4
Email: cfy@ecf.utoronto.ca, m.stickel@utoronto.ca
Web: www.engineering.utoronto.ca, www.uoft.me/mstickel
Tel 416.978.7805 | Fax 416.946.0371

Metal Leaf Electroscope Simulator

Matthew Craig, Teacher at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto

I’ve been programming a suite of PC/MAC/Android simulations designed for teaching the Ontario curriculum for science and physics. One topic for which I have never had an effective simulation is the metal-leaf electroscope for grade 9 science, and revisited briefly in grade 12 physics.

The electroscope simulation I have developed is a very simple simulation that can be used to show induced charge separation, charging by contact, charging by induction and grounding. Read More...

A New Approach to Teaching Motion: Modeling, Metacognition, and Mathematical Sense-Making

Chris Meyer, York Mills C. I., Toronto

The Gold Medal Race
It was a thrill to watch the Toronto high school student Penny Oleksiak win gold in the pool at the Rio summer Olympics. Now my students and I watch her win every semester as part of our new motion unit for grade 11 physics. In this article, I will describe the new pedagogical ideas that I have built into this unit, starting with Penny Oleksiak. Penny’s outstanding performance is a great example for physics students because: she’s awesome, she’s female, she’s still in high school, and it draws students into a real application of what they learn: sport science.

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